The far-right activist Tommy Robinson likes to wear a T-shirt bearing the slogan: “Convicted of journalism.” No, mate, you were convicted of contempt of court – not the same at all.
Robinson has been jailed for nine months today, but may appeal, and will anyway serve less than that.
Plenty of people hold journalism in contempt; Robinson instead misuses journalism to his own contemptible ends.
It is fashionable now to disparage journalists and their once-inky trade. Everyone from the media-hating Donald Trump to the more ardent fans of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismiss journalists as purveyors of fake news or stooges of the establishment.
Most journalists aren’t establishment lackeys or thugs with laptops intent on societal sabotage. They are just reporters looking for stories; or editors knocking poor copy into shape; or behind-the-scenes writers of the TV or radio news.
Most journalist are good company and decent people. And no journalist wants to be associated with a right-wing troublemaker such as Tommy Robinson. That name, as everyone should know by now, is a cynical construct adopted by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
Contempt of court laws exist to ensure defendants have a fair trial. The rules are there to prevent juries being influenced by anything other than the evidence presented in court.
The man who pretends to be called Robinson was found guilty last week of interfering with the trial of a sexual grooming gang at Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.
Reporting restrictions at the trail prevented the publication of any details until the end of a series of linked trials.
A real reporter would have respected such rules; Robinson flagrantly ignored them by broadcasting live on Facebook footage from outside the court while the jury was considering its verdict.
Convicted of journalism? No, again. Convicted for ignoring the rules professional journalists abide by. Ignoring those rules for his own self-serving purposes. And in doing so, potentially making life much worse for the victims who could have seen the case collapse.
We should not be fooled by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and his supposed man-of-the-people alter ego. He is only out to cause trouble in our society by spreading unfounded fears, attacking modern Britain and fomenting hatred.
What he does has nothing to do with journalism; but everything to do with pushing his vile ‘brand’. Anyone who thinks that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is any sort of a hero or man of the people has been severely duped.
Last Sunday’s Observer reported that extreme right-wing ideology has entered mainstream political discourse. This is in part thanks to a conspiracy known as the “great replacement” theory – a paranoia that white people are being wiped out by migration and violence.
The gunman who killed 51 people in New Zealand in March featured this theory in his manifesto.
Donald Trump, in tweeting about his border wall, has made comments that some see as supporting a white nationalist case.
Sadly, the internet made a fake folk hero out of Tommy Robinson – and it’s helped to spread such far-right race theories. We need to be on the outlook.
But Tommy Robinson a journalist? No thanks, journalism has enough problems of its own without being hijacked by far-right opportunists.